Jersey Zoological Park or Jersey Zoo is a 25-acre zoo established in 1959 in Jersey by naturalist and author Gerald Durrell (1925–1995). It is now officially called Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust after its founder, or Durrell for short. It has approximately 150,000 visitors per year.
Jersey Zoo has always concentrated on rare and endangered species. It has over 190 species of mammals, birds, amphibians and reptile.
Since 1964, the zoo has been home to the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust (formerly the Jersey Wildlife Preservation Trust).
The zoo is located at Les Augrès Manor, Trinity. It officially opened on 26 March 1959.
It is situated in 31 acres of landscaped parkland and water-gardens. It has a strong commitment to looking after the Island’s native wildlife, and large areas within the grounds have been designated native habitat areas. The extensive planting of flowering and fruiting trees throughout the grounds also serves to attract a plethora of wild birds and insects. Included in the former are several species of bird which used to be commonly seen in Island gardens but have become increasingly scarce, including the house sparrow and song thrush.
Princess Royal Pavilion
The Pavilion was opened by Princess Anne in the 1970s, and serves as a conference centre, and classroom. The theatre shows films depicting the work of the trust, and also exhibits artwork. It highlights the work undertaken by the Trust around the world.
The following tribute to Jersey Zoo is taken from the website goodzoos.com
- No other zoo has a reputation quite like Jersey Zoo. In the zoo world it stands almost alone. Visitors from all around the world, who might never think to visit Alderney or Skye or the Isle of Wight, make a special pilgrimage to this little Channel Island just to drive from one corner to the other and visit a modest manor estate whose name has almost become a synonym for the conservation in zoos: 'The Jersey Wildlife Preservation Trust'. No other zoo devotes such a high proportion of its resources towards conservation projects overseas; no other zoo in the world (it would seem a fair guess) attracts such a high proportion of its visitors from other countries; and no other zoo has a character quite so eminent as Gerald Durrell as director.
- It might so easily have been 'Bournemouth Zoo' or 'Poole Zoo'. Those were the first two places that Gerald Durrell tried when he decided that the time had come, in 1956, to start his own zoological collection. Durrell was himself a former zookeeper. He worked as a student at Whipsnade with a wide variety of animals, and in 1947 he set off for the British Cameroons, on a privately financed six month trip to collect animals for British zoos — angwantibos for London, guenons for Chester, mongooses and drills for Paignton, and a treasure hoard of other creatures for Manchester and Bristol. The journey, the first of many, was a turning point in Durrell’s life. For a start it embarked him upon a literary career — his book. ‘The Overloaded Ark’, chronicled the trials and tribulations the of trip; but more importantly, some would say, the journey to the Cameroons began what he would later describe as ‘an ever growing sense of disquiet’. He began to grow unhappy about the attitude of zoos towards their animals — as essentially disposable and replaceable commodities. He grew impatient with what he saw as hopeless ignorance of wildlife among zoo owners and directors, and he began to develop a concern for what he described as ‘the low ebb species’, animals that mankind had a duty to sustain as a precaution against their disappearance in the wild.
- The only resolution to the unease was to start his own zoo; but it would be a different zoo. In 1956 it was difficult, almost impossible, to get anyone to believe that a zoo could have a serious purpose beyond mere entertainment. Durrell believed that it was possible. Bournemouth and Poole resisted his approaches, but their loss was Jersey’s gain. Armed with a £25,000 loan from his publishers, Durrell flew to Jersey in 1959, and rented the fifteenth century Les Augres Manor and its surrounding twenty acres with an option to buy if his venture succeeded. The early days were a hand-to-mouth existence. Durrell wrote furiously to maintain a steady income from his books to support the fledgling collection; and then at last, what began as a fairly traditional resort zoo began to take on a unique new identity. Jersey’s conservation work had begun.
- At the entrance to the zoo stands a pottery model of a dodo. It has become Jersey Zoo’s symbol, and its stark warning of extinction is an everyday concern within the park. The list of the zoo’s occupants reads like a roll call of creatures whose futures hang literally in the balance: animals like the parma wallaby which was thought for many years to be extinct until a small group was found on the Island of Kawau; the Rodrigues fruit bat which may number fewer than a hundred wild individuals; the bald (or ‘waldrapp’) ibis now restricted to only two perilous breeding sites: Edward’s pheasant and white-eared pheasant whose wild populations are quite unknown. These and many other creatures, familiar and unfamiliar, may owe their very existence to the Jersey Wildlife Preservation Trust; and what the trust does (if only every other zoo would copy them) is to seek to provide holistic support for every species that it cares for. So it is that Jersey has managed or been involved with such a list of projects that it would take a booklet to cover them all. They have cooperated in releasing golden lion tamarins back into the wild in Brazil, have repatriated literally dozens of hutias to Jamaica, have reared and released nearly extinct native kestrels and pink pigeons in Mauritius. and thick billed parrots into Arizona, where they had been considered extinct for fifty years. They have cooperated with the Indonesian government in an attempt to save the white Bali starling, with the Philippines government to save the Palawan pheasant, with the government of St Lucia to save the St Lucia parrot, with the government of Madagascar to provide lemur breeding facilities at Parc Tsimbazaza, and with the United States National Zoo in Washington to breed Goeldi’s monkeys (over sixty have been born here). The US National Wildlife Service decided the black-footed ferret was extinct, but when one turned up alive the trust became involved and a few wild ferrets were found with financial help from the Trust, and bought into captivity in Wyoming where they are now breeding. Recent projects involve the volcano rabbit (a creature found only on the slopes of four Mexican volcanos), and the hog-like tusked babirusa from Sulawesi and Tonga. And one highly imaginative project involves the little Mauritian island, Round Island, whose native fauna and flora was practically eradicated by introduced rabbits and goats. Durrell and his team have helped to manage a showcase rescue of the island. The offending mammals have been removed, the vegetation is regenerating, and three Round Island reptiles, a skink. a gecko, and a boa (probably the rarest snake in the world) are breeding well at Jersey Zoo.
- Most zoos offer up the palliative that their animals are being bred for reintroduction into the wild. Jersey Zoo has proved that with dedication it can be done.
- It is not a large zoo. At only twenty-two acres it is one of the smallest zoos in this guide. Space has never been one of Durrell’s primary concerns; indeed in ‘The Stationary Ark’ he roundly refutes the zoogoer’s demands for more space for animals, which he claims they do not need. The outcome is an unusual collection of some of the world’s rarest animals, with many in rather unnoteworthy enclosures. The impression at Jersey is of tidy, park-like grounds, with grassy open spaces, neat pathways, well tended shrubberies, and a swampy valley that snakes into the park and provides a home for the splendid colonies of water fowl and rare cranes. The manor house is a beautiful example of French-style Jersey architecture. Its oldest parts date back to the fourteenth century, and the rough granite outbuildings and kitchen gardens are now an integral part of the new zoo.
- Probably Jersey’s most celebrated residents are the gorillas. Gorillas have a long association with the zoo, and the new ‘gorilla breeding centre’, opened in 1981, is astounding. It consists of glass-fronted indoor dens with plenty of space, leading outside to a rolling grassy field. The field is landscaped with a shallow pool, sand pit, climbing trees, nets and ropes. Much of the grass is left to grow long and provides an excellent foraging area. The whole enclosure is surrounded by a high wall overlooked by visitors. The dominant male of this group is a huge silver-backed gorilla named Jambo, himself captive born and parent reared, and he is now the father of numerous young gorillas, and has proved to be an excellent parent. There are nine gorillas at the time of writing, but the zoo has been unselfish in sending its gorilla offspring far afield where they are needed. Seven of the twelve gorillas reared at Jersey are away on breeding loans.
- Alongside this enclosure is a gorilla walk’ that mirrors the climbing facilities within, allowing children to exercise in true ape fashion while being quizzically observed by a family group of Western lowland gorillas.
- Such is the dedication towards species conservation at Jersey, that the zoo thinks nothing of filling an entire house or a whole row of aviaries with a single species. In many other zoos this idea would be unthinkable, but far from being boring, this specialisation can encourage you to look more closely. The sole species within the nocturnal house are little Jamaican hutias (a primitive ground living rodent), and the volcano rabbits. They are hardly the sort of animals that will be familiar to any but the regular zoo-visitor, and yet the experience of visiting this one house is unique. On a slightly elevated site by the gorillas a double row of cages contains endangered black lion tamarins, the only ones outside Brazil. There may be less than fifty of these lovely creatures left in the wild. Even rarer is the rotund and delightful Mauritius pink pigeon which was rescued from the very brink of extinction when perhaps only ten birds remained in the wild and six in captivity. (Don’t miss the rarest bird in the zoo’ reads the sign).
- Most visitors should enjoy the twin marmoset houses with their heavily planted outdoor pens where several species of little marmosets and tamarins are kept. Infant silvery marmosets might be seen here, playing next door to a family of beautiful golden lion tamarins. The cages are perhaps a little small, but no zoo has been so successful in breeding tamarins as Jersey. More than thirty golden lion tamarins have been born here.
- Most of Jersey’s birds are extremely rare in the wild. One of the best known successes has been the white-eared pheasant, a native of China. When Jersey received its first two pairs the species was down to fewer than twenty known birds. Several hundred have since been bred at the zoo, and a great many have been sent to other conservation zoos and bird gardens.
- The reptile house (actually called the Gaherty Reptile Breeding Centre) holds several rare or endangered lizards, snakes and tortoises. Outside are little corrals for more terrapins and tortoises. Most zoo reptile houses do not take the idea of breeding particularly seriously: but here there are more off-show breeding units than there are vivaria on display, and signs give an indication of the very high level of breeding success. Over a hundred red-footed tortoise have been bred here, and a trust programme is underway to repeat this success in Madagascar with ploughshare tortoise, one of the rarest animals in the world.
- Despite its deserved reputation as the world’s first conservation zoo, Jersey Zoo does not entirely escape criticism. Durrell makes a point of inviting it; and there are areas of the zoo which do not fairly represent the mood of the collection. The Bornean orangutans are disappointingly housed in grim bunkers. The Sumatran orangs fare little better in a hard concrete den with more reasonable, but nonetheless uninspiring facilities for climbing. Disaffection with these enclosures has led the Trust to reconsider their keeping of orangs. A substantial new enclosure is on the drawing-board for the Sumatran orangs, which will borrow ideas from the gorilla compound, and the zoo will relinquish their Bornean orangs to another zoo in 1992. Some primate enclosures look designed primarily for ease of cleaning, and the monkey and lemur accommodation around the manor is boring and unattractive. The spectacled bears have a pit with a difference; it has a tangle of fallen trees, a grassy mound, and a pool, and bears have twice bred here; but it is small. It may seem niggardly to pick upon points like this, but expectations of this zoo run so high, that it might be a shame to have them spoilt for the sake of a handful of disappointing exhibits.
- Still the zoo is continuing to develop. One new addition is an innovative landscaped field for the growing colony of Celebes macaques, where they are contained by a simple electric fence. There are over twenty of these delightful jet black monkeys in this enclosure now, and the enclosure won a zoo award in 1991. It is easy to see why. The fence is astonishingly low so that the impression for the visitor is virtually of unconfined monkeys on a sort of playground-lawn. The monkeys apparently like it too, and the group is fascinating to watch. The lemur wood which holds three groups of lemurs around the banks of a little lake, contained only by a shallow polythene overhang on the fence, is superb. The Rodrigues fruit bats (the rarest bat in the world) are magnificent in two separate colonies: and there are snow leopards, parrots, serval, and some beautiful Chilean flamingos. A short run of cages displays several rare lemurs. a pair of cheetah occupy an impressively planted compound, and there are dozens of aviaries with Congo peacocks, Rothschild’s mynah, various parrots, and some extremely rare ducks.
- In 1991 Jersey Zoo announced another sensational coup which will undoubtedly help to reinforce its international reputation. Drawing on their long association with the government of Madagascar, they negotiated permission to import six aye-ayes. The aye-aye has long been considered one of the rarest primates on earth. A curious relative of the lemurs, it occupies a zoological family all of its own. It has wild black fur, a slightly pinched face, large rolling eyes, and an absurdly long middle finger which is used to extract termites from holes in the trees. Sightings of aye-ayes in the wild are rare, and they have been virtually unrepresented in zoos (although London Zoo had one earlier this century). For almost a decade it was assumed that the only viable population was a protected group on the offshore island of Nosy Mangabe, at the north eastern corner of Madagascar. Then reports began to come in of other aye-ayes, and it became clear that there were still active groups of aye-ayes scattered around Madagascar. The status of these, however, looked perilous. In places the aye-aye may have been protected by local superstition, but farmers are increasingly driven to kill them as potential pests, and the six animals at Jersey come from an area where, according to John Hartley of the Trust, they could not have survived for long. The six animals (two adult males, two adult females, and two infant males) will be kept off show until the spring of 1992, awaiting the completion of a new nocturnal enclosure alongside the manor. To date the animals are thriving. They are fed on imported green coconuts, sugar cane, and fruit (although their sugar cane has now been rationed on the advice of a dentist). If any zoo can succeed in breeding aye-ayes, Jersey can. And if they do, then these six animals (and those now also in America and France) may become the progenitors of a whole zoo population for our grandchildren to visit and appreciate and wonder at the bizarre design concept of this unlikely little primate.
- Madagascar has also provided two other species which will go on show for the first time anywhere in the world, in Jersey in 1992. The Alaotran hapalemur (or gentle lemur) comes from a very small area of reedbeds around Lake Alaotra in Western Madagascar. It is a highly endangered subspecies, and will be the first of the gentle lemurs to be brought into captive management. Jersey have complemented their capture of ten of these delicate lemurs with an effective poster campaign in the area of Lake Alaotra, drawing the attention of local people to the plight of the hapalemurs, and of the gravely endangered Madagascar Pochard, which has not been seen for a number of years. The other Malagasy newcomers are five giant jumping rats, looking like chunky jerboas (or even small wallabies). They come from a very small area of West Coast forest and their status is extremely uncertain. But of the group at the zoo, all three females have already bred, and there is optimism that they could rapidly become the nucleus of a self- sustaining captive population.
- Jersey has complemented its remarkable conservation work with record keeping of the highest standards, and well documented research work that has paralleled every project. There are comprehensive education facilities, and the information displays alongside every enclosure are excellent. One scheme which illustrates the commitment of the trust towards conservation is an overseas training scheme for keepers who will eventually manage captive breeding units for endangered species in their own countries. Students from over fifty countries have completed the residential course here. This is not the sort of endeavour that is visible to the average zoo visitor, but it is indicative of the responsible attitude taken at Jersey towards the whole issue of wildlife conservation, and of the seriousness with which the role of the zoo is seen.
- ‘Of the 500 or so zoological collections in the world,’ wrote Durrell in ‘The Stationary Ark’, ‘a few are excellent, some are inferior, and the rest are appalling.’ Here on this unlikely holiday island, Durrell and his team have tried to redefine the concepts of the modern zoo, and have thrown down the gauntlet to those inferior and appalling zoos. The Jersey Wildlife preservation Trust now has sister organisations in the United States and Canada, and has probably done more than any other zoo in the world to draw attention to the urgent plight of the disappearing animals of our planet. The world is a big place, and the problems that its wildlife faces are too extensive for any one organisation, or any one zoo. But through its example, Jersey Zoo has started a movement that may one day draw upon the support of hundreds of zoos. The history books of the 21st century or beyond will tell if they have succeeded; and if they have, they will surely keep a place for Jersey Zoo.